Album Review: TOMB MOLD Manor of Infinite Forms
Rare is the band that rises through the extreme metal ranks like Tomb Mold. In three years and just a scant few releases, the Canadian (now) quartet has launched itself near the forefront of the industry in dazzling fashion. That’s not about to change: Manor of Infinite Forms, the band’s sophomore record, is a gruelingly excellent slice of cosmic horror that should solidify the band’s status as one of death metal’s new young leaders.
Manor of Infinite Forms' take on death metal is as alien and downright putrid as its indescribable album art suggests. It’s the perfect mix of spacey bleakness and guttural brutality that fans of the classic “stranger” death metal acts of yore such as Timeghoul and Demilich will be right at home here. That alone is monumental praise but shouldn’t imply that Tomb Mold's latest merely hearkens back to some of the genre’s quirkier outputs. The band never leans too heavily into its more abstract elements. Instead, they use them to bolster and expand their mostly mid-paced, but more than sufficiently pummeling, death metal core to create something impressively unlike anything else in the scene.
A deceptively significant part of all this success is due to the album’s clean and unobtrusive production. While the scratchier, excessively loud finish on Primordial Malignity, the band’s 2016 debut record, positively contributed to that album’s intensity, sheer aggression isn’t Tomb Mold’s greatest strength. Manor of Infinite Forms’ comparable restraint allows the band’s creative riffing and unpredictable song structures apt room to breathe, and the music is all the better for it.
Each song keeps the listener on their feet but boasts so many individual standout bits that one can’t help but be enthralled for the entire 41-minute duration. It is no small feat.
While Manor of Infinite Forms is far from the fastest or crushingly heavy cut of death metal, it’s certainly no pushover. Just take the abruptly savage shift in pace near “Chamber of Sacred Ootheca’s” particularly memorable outro, for example. Most records of its kind would threaten to wear themselves out well before their end. Tomb Mold’s twisting song passages and general unfathomability bolster the intensity instead of pushing it too far over the edge. Even after numerous subsequent listens, it is proof of Tomb Mold’s phenomenal songwriting chops.
Of course, the actual instrumental elements are also near the top of their class. The genuinely whirling guitar lines that close “Final Struggle of Selves” or the blisteringly chalky bass that surprisingly drives much of “Gored Embrace (Confronting Biodegradation) are some of the best examples. The latter of which serves as arguably the album’s greatest moments.
As good as Tomb Mold’s riffing is, it’s fairly clear that they’re doing the heavy lifting here. Manor of Infinite Forms’ vocals are exclusively the kind of deep, guttural growling you’d expect, and while they doubtlessly intense and sufficiently compliment the rest of the music, they never astound in the way the backing instrumentation so consistently does. Tomb Mold’s instrumentation earnestly pushes death metal’s conventions into genuinely exciting new directions, so it’s a slight letdown that the vocals aren’t quite as inspiring.
But still, damn. While Manor of Infinite Forms might not be one of the all-time crowning gems of Demilich (or Chthe'ilist, if you’d prefer a modern alternative)-style death metal, it’s still a superb record in its own right. That it even comes close to those two bands speaks volumes. It easily positions Tomb Mold’s latest release as one of the year’s standout death metal offerings.